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Studying abroad planning takes time

Before the adventure, the host families, the bus rides or the plane trip, many Concordia students must organize and plan for their study abroad classes. Each student approaches this differently. Some plan as much as possible beforehand; others take the trip as it comes and change their schedule as they go along.

The process of planning and registering for class is complicated. It involves a lot of time and extra paperwork for students. Different countries have different grading scales and different registration techniques. It takes Concordia’s Registrar’s Office extra time to receive other schools grades from previous semesters, as other countries’ semesters do not always coincide with Concordia’s.

This can also make it difficult for students to plan which classes to take while studying abroad, and how it will fit into their four-year plan. Depending on the student’s major, this information can have varying importance.

Junior Jillian Higbe is majoring in Spanish and French. She completed her study abroad experience in France last semester. Because both of her majors are language components, the process of transferring her credits was simpler.

“What I was told with the classes I took over there, because they are all in French, they all count as French electives towards my French major,” she said.

Other students must do extra paperwork to ensure that classes they wish to pursue abroad will count for other core requirements here at Concordia. For students who have majors outside of world languages, this process is essential for them to graduate in four years.

The Registrar’s Office provides its resources when available for the different program, but not every program has as many resources as others. Higbe will also be studying abroad in Argentina in the fall. She noted that the Argentine program has more available resources for the registration process than her program in France.

“I feel like I’ve been left in the dark a lot,” Higbe said in regards to her French registration process.

In order to lessen the confusion and stress students feel when finding classes abroad that meet Concordia’s criteria, the Registrar’s Office developed the transfer notebook. This online book contains information from multiple schools around the globe. Over the years, the Registrar’s Office, in cooperation with the Global Education Office, has compiled class information from various schools and what requirements each class fulfills.

“We’re refining the tools all the time,” said Registrar Ericka Peterson.

New classes are added into this online notebook constantly. Students can then use this resource when planning their schedules. They can see the name of the class at the university, its equivalent at Concordia, the credit level abroad and the credit level at Concordia.

“Transfer notebook is a brilliant invention on the part of Global Ed.,” Higbe said.

Some programs have had so many students from Concordia that the registrar and Global Education offices have multiple classes listed in the transfer notebook. Others have just begun, but all transfer notebooks are in constant development.

The transfer notebook helps many students when planning their abroad classes. Laurel DiSera is a junior majoring in music, global studies, and Spanish as well as pursuing a math minor. She will be studying in Argentina in the fall of 2015.

In order to ensure that her classes abroad will count towards her different majors, DiSera filled out the “Course Equivalent” study away form from the Registrar’s Office. On this form DiSera writes the name of the course at the abroad program, and what the equivalent is here at Concordia. She finds all of this information in the transfer notebook. She then presents this form to the Registrar’s Office for approval. The office then checks it over in order to confirm or deny her requests.

DiSera has composed a list of all of the classes she hopes to take while in Argentina, but there is no certainty that those classes will be available.

“I can go and look at all of these classes that they have [in Argentina],” DiSera said, “but what is really troubling is they list what classes they have and however many credits there are, but not the time periods [the classes are offered].”

In the Argentinian program, the classes will only be offered if there is enough student interest.

“I can’t guarantee that they’ll be there, which is a problem for me with all of my majors,” DiSera said.

Peterson said that this is very common for many abroad programs. Schedules are not set as early in advance there as they are here at Concordia. This can be a frustration for students planning their class schedules before their trip. Many times students must change classes upon arrival. They then contact someone in the Registrar’s Office in order to figure out if their new classes can fit core requirements, Peterson said.

Peterson said that the Office of the Registrar 100 percent urges students to plan as much as possible before their trip, but there are cultural factors such as late class scheduling that can change these plans.

While the process is quite extensive for DiSera, she is being proactive by planning ahead as much as possible.

“The office of the registrar has been very helpful,” DiSera said, “As long as you are trying [to do the paperwork] and not getting angry about it.”

For many students the benefits outweigh the paperwork. The paperwork is the next step to making their study-abroad experience a reality.


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